Chinhai Spiny Crocodile Newt
© 2000 Vance Vredenburg (1 of 17)
The genus Echinotriton comprises two species, E. chinhaiensis, occurring in Zhejiang in China (Cai and Fei 1984) and E. andersoni, endemic on five islands of the Ryukyu archipelago, Japan (Nussbaum and Brodie Jr. 1982, Nussbaum et al. 1995, and Zhao and Adler 1993 refer to a find of E. andersoni on Taiwan, but the species’ occurrence there has not been confirmed). Echinotriton is unique among amphibian genera in having an anteriorly curved spine on the posterolateral surface of each quadrate. Echinotriton is most similar to Tylototriton, but differs in a number of significant morphological and life history features. The ribs of Echinotriton are free of muscular attachment distally, sharp-tipped, and often penetrate the skin through the primary warts. Echinotriton has a stockier body than Tylototriton, with shorter limbs, digits and tail (Nussbaum and Brodie Jr. 1982). The adults are completely terrestrial and deposit their eggs on land, whereas the larvae develop in lentic water bodies.
E. chinhaiensis is closely related and very similar to the Japanese sister species E. andersoni (Zhao and Hu 1988), but differs from that species in that it lacks the rows of secondary warts running on each side of the vertebral crest, between vertebral column and the row of primary warts, supported by the ribs. It has only one epipleural process on each of the ribs 2 to 4; the fifth toe is normally developed; it has 5 metatarsals and 9 tarsals (Cai and Fei 1984).
Distribution and Habitat
The typical spawning habitats around the ponds to which the females migrate are characterized by a combination of features: There is dense plant cover around the ponds. The vegetation is composed of an upper layer of evergreen broad-leaved trees, a middle layer of shrubs, and a lower layer of grasses, creating a dark and humid habitat. The ponds are semi-permanent with a pH value of 6 to 7. The water bodies are small and shallow, receiving water mainly from rain. The egg-laying areas consist of slopes and flat ground directly bordering the ponds; the surface consists of loose soil and stones and is invariably covered by a thick leaf litter (Xie et al. 2000).
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
The population in Ruiyansi Forest Park probably consists of no more than ca 370 adult animals (Xie 1999). Both males and females of this salamander lead a largely hidden terrestrial life and are difficult to observe outside the breeding season. They are inactive during the day and very slow moving when active. Hibernation takes place from November to March. In the reproductive season, only the females move to the oviposition sites. Males are rarely found. Mating takes place on land and has only been observed in the laboratory (Sparreboom and Xie 1999-2000, unpubl. obs.). The male approaches the female and deposits several spermatophores on land. The couple makes a circular movement, in the course of which the female is led over the spermatophore.
Food consists of earthworms, snails and Scolopendridae (Cai and Fei 1984).
E. chinhaiensis exhibits a stereotyped rigid antipredator posture (the unken reflex) during which the body is flattened and curled up and the hands and tail are raised. The species has elongated, sharp ribs with sharp epipleural processes, capable of piercing through the lateral warts (Cai and Fei 1984).
Trends and Threats
Relation to Humans
The species has been captive-bred on a small scale in an outdoors enclosure at the Chengdu Institute of Biology.
Possible reasons for amphibian decline
General habitat alteration and loss
Brodie, E.D., Jr, Nussbaum, R.A. and DiGiovanni, M. (1984). ''Antipredator adaptations of Asian salamanders (Salamandridae).'' Herpetologica, 40, 56-68.
Cai, C. M. and Fei, L. (1984). ''Description of neotype of Echinotriton chinhaiensis (Chang) and its ecology and habit (In Chinese, with English abstract).'' Acta Herpetologica Sinica, 3, 71-78.
Chang, M. L. Y. (1936). Contribution à l'étude morphologique, biologique et systématique des amphibiens urodèles de la Chine. Librairie Picart, Paris.
Chang, M.L.Y. (1932). ''Notes on two salamanders from Chekiang, Tylototriton chinhaiensis sp. nov. and Triturus sinensis (Gray).'' Contributions from the Biological Laboratory of the Science Society of China, 8, 201-212.
Fei, L. (1992). ''Echinotriton chinhaiensis (Chang) and its endangered status.'' Chinese Journal of Zoology, 27, 39-41.
Fei, L. (1999). Atlas of Amphibians of China. Henan Publishing House of Science and Technology, Zhengzhou.
Huang, M., Cai, C., Jin, Y., Gu, H., Zhang, S., Guo, H. and Wei, J. (1990). Fauna of Zhejiang: Amphibia Reptilia. Hangzhou, Zhejiang Science and Technology Publishing House (in Chinese)
Nussbaum, R. A., Brodie, E. D., Jr., and Datong, Y. (1995). ''A taxonomic review of Tylototriton verrucosus Anderson (Amphibia: Caudata: Salamandridae).'' Herpetologica, 51(3), 257-268.
Nussbaum, R.A. and Brodie, E.D., Jr. (1982). ''Partitioning of the salamandrid genus Tylototriton Anderson (Amphibia: Caudata) with a description of a new genus.'' Herpetologica, 38, 320-332..
Xie, F. (1999). Study on the population ecology and genetic structures of the Chinhai Salamander, Echinotriton chinhaiensis (Caudata: Salamandridae), PhD dissertation (in Chinese with English summary). Chengdu Institute of Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Xie, F., Fei, L., Ye, C., Cai, C., Wang, Z. and Sparreboom, M. (2000). ''Breeding migration and oviposition of the Chinhai Salamander, Echinotriton chinhaiensis (Caudata: Salamandridae).'' Herpetological Journal, 10(3), 111-118.
Ye, C., Fei, L., and Hu, S. Q. (1993). Rare and Economic Amphibians of China. Sichuan Publishing House of Science and Technology, Chengdu.
Zhao, E. (1998). China Red Data Book of Endangered Animals: Amphibia and Reptilia. Science Press: Endangered Species Scientific Commission, P.R.C., Beijing.
Zhao, E. (1999). ''Distribution patterns of amphibians in temperate East Asia.'' Patterns of Distribution of Amphibians. A Global Perspective. Duellman, W. E., eds., Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD, 421-443.
Zhao, E. and Adler, K. (1993). Herpetology of China. Contributions to Herpetology 10. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, in cooperation with Chinese Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, Oxford, Ohio, USA.
Zhao, E. and Hu, Q. (1988). ''Studies on Chinese tailed amphibians.'' Studies on Chinese Salamanders. E. Zhao, Q. Hu, Y. Jiang and Y. Yang, eds., Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, 1-44.
Originally submitted by: Max Sparreboom and Feng Xie (first posted 2000-09-26)
Edited by: Kellie Whittaker (2009-04-06)
Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2009 Echinotriton chinhaiensis: Chinhai Spiny Crocodile Newt <https://amphibiaweb.org/species/4249> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Jan 29, 2022.
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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2022. <https://amphibiaweb.org> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 29 Jan 2022.
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